Professor Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, a professor of Gynaecology, has been selected by the Governing Council as the new Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, a development which dashed the agitation by the people of Nsukka extraction for one of their own to succeed the outgoing VC.
According to a source who confided in THE CITIZEN, Prof Ozumba, who hails from Anambra State and a former provost of the UNN medical school emerged through a rigorous and very transparent process which no one can fault.
He was said to have defeated other contestants, including the current Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Prof. Polycarp Chigbu, that of Administration, Prof. Malachy Ukwueze, Prof. Emma Ezugwu, among others to emerge topmost.
The erudite scholar, who had contested in 2009 for the post of vice chancellor, following the expiration of the tenure of Prof. Chinedu Nebo, now minister of power, attended Government College, Umuahia, before proceeding to the University of Lagos, UNILAG, where he studied medicine.
After joining the services of the university, Ozumba rose rapidly and was elevated to the academic status of Professor after seven years of teaching. Apart from publishing more than 300 books, Prof. Ozumba, had training in different foreign universities, since after graduating from the University of Lagos and belongs to several local and international professional bodies.
After serving as Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UNN, Prof. Chukwuma Ozumba, was subsequently appointed Provost of the UNN College of Medicine in 2004 to 2008 and would be remembered for instituting the Prof. Chukwuedu Nwokolo annual lecture series for academic excellence, as well as founding the University of Nigeria College of Medicine Alumni Association, UNNCOMA.
In the build up to the selection of a new VC for the prestigious and foremost institution following the expiration of Professor Batho Okolo’s tenure who was said to have served the university meritoriously and returned it to its past glory, some people of Nsukka (Enugu North Senatorial Zone) in Enugu state canvased for an Nsukka man to succeed the outgoing VC.
This move was regarded by some public affairs analysts as parochial and self-serving, pointing out that Nsukka sons are Vice Chancellors in other institutions sited both in and outside the state.
“It is a wishful thinking but I don’t think it was worth pursuing because in the first place, Nsukka sons are VCs in many institutions outside Nsukka and that doesn’t mean that those areas lack qualified candidates. But the core interest should be to get the best person for the institution who would take it to the next level irrespective of where he or she hails from. What we need is a performer. I don’t care where he comes from. We want a reformer and a leader,” said an analyst who pleaded for anonymity.
However, others argued that the demand was burn out of genuine quest for justice and equity, adding that since the inception, no person from Nsukka has ever had the opportunity to lead the institution.
“We have had several VCs from other states of the federation but none of them besides Prof. Ndili, it was only Prof Chinedu Nebo and Prof. Batho Okolo that actually worked and led the institution out of the wood. A fact which justifies our agitation because both Nebo and Okolo are from Enugu State and they performed. Nobody would have our interest at heart more than our own. That agitation is genuine and we shall accomplish it someday,” said Chris Asogwa, an Nsukka based opinion leader.
Meanwhile, Prof. Okolo, the outgoing VC, applauded for his sterling performance in the university has said that he was leaving the institution “better, richer and stronger” than the one he inherited at inception of his tenure five years ago.
Speaking during a farewell ceremony organised by the University of Nigeria for Okolo, the 13th vice chancellor of the institution, Okolo said he was leaving office a happy man, knowing that all the choices his administration made were for the best interest of the University.
He said that some of the decisions his administration took might have been despised by some people, but the results of his choices would impact positively on the University in the years to come.
“I have no doubt in my mind that I am handing over a university that is better, richer and stronger than the one I inherited five years ago. Even detractors and pessimists acknowledge the far reaching developments that have taken place in our university”, he said.
Prof. Okolo said that although his administration was maligned by some disgruntled individuals in the University, he bears no grudges against anyone. “It is my wish that no other Vice-Chancellor experiences the kind of distraction, disrespect and impudence that I had to endure in the course of my tenure.
However, for the records, I do not bear grudges, largely because the dramatis personae are not deserving of my long term emotions”, he said.
He implored the University community to support the in-coming administration to enable it achieve greater development for the University, stating that UNN is not likely to go back to where it used to be.
Chairman of the occasion and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Prof. Oleka K. Udeala described Okolo as “an award winning Vice-Chancellor, a magician of no mean repute and a man who sees danger as his business”. Udeala, a professor of pharmacy, was the first alumnus to be appointed Vice Chancellor of the institution.